The three major high street brands have strong off-premises sales and, under current Government guidelines, could have chosen to stay open and continue to offer food via takeaway and delivery.
All cite the well being of their customers and staff as the key reason behind the closures.
“Pret’s first value is Happy Teams , Happy Customers and my priority is always to protect our teams as much as we can. For this reason, we will be closing all out UK shops temporarily from this evening,” wrote Pret a Manger CEO Pano Christou in an Instagram post yesterday evening (22 March).
McDonald’s says it will work with local community groups to responsibly distribute food and drink from its restaurants over the coming days.
Coffee giants Costa and Starbucks have also closed all of their sites.
A number of major national restaurant brands switched to takeaway and delivery-only models late last week including Byron and Pho.
It appears that the Government’s widely welcomed move to pay 80% of wages for staff who can’t work has made these sweeping closures more viable.
All employers will be eligible and can contact HMRC, which will cover up to £2,500 per month under a Coronavirus Retention Scheme. It is expected the first grants will be paid within weeks and the scheme will be up and running before the end of April.
The programme will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March and initially run for three months, but will be extended if necessary.
But smaller businesses and those with less cash in the bank and less sway with landlords are still under pressure to remain open and generate what cashflow they can.
Many independents have totally changed their operational model in the face of the pandemic, turning into shops offering packaged food alongside freshly cooked meals to be heated up at home.